The Captain Hates the Sea (1934)

Passed   |    |  Comedy


The Captain Hates the Sea (1934) Poster

A cruise ship heads south from L.A. with a variety of passengers - a reporter, a P.I., crooks, a general etc.


6.4/10
665

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25 August 2010 | boblipton
7
| Grand Hotel on Water
Lewis Milestone, ace director-for-hire, seems to have been having a terrible year in 1934: between the fascinating train wreck of HALLELUJAH I'M A BUM and this one, he seems to have, temporarily at least, lost his way.

Anyway, this picture is another fascinating failure because while there are many wonderful performers and performances in it -- Jack Gilbert, who would die shortly, was not the only actor whose career was on the slide and thus available on the cheap: Victor McLaglen and Wynne Gibson undoubtedly did not command as much money as they would have a few years earlier. Everyone gives fine performances, but they never quite come together as a whole, the way GRAND HOTEL does with its sense of fatality. THE CAPTAIN HATES THE SEA remains a series of vignettes linked by location. Perhaps too much landed on the cutting room floor.

Others have commented on Gilbert, so let me note one of my favorite talents behind the camera: Joseph August. In a third of a century as a director of photography, from William Hart westerns in the 'Teens through PORTRAIT OF JENNIE, he showed you beauty with every shot, and never -- or rarely -- so that you noticed the work that went into it. His traveling shots moved only to tell a story, his compositions focused your attention where it should be, his lighting let you see peoples' faces -- take a look at the Three Stooges, away from the flat light that they worked in for all their shorts. They are suddenly human beings for their few scenes here -- and August was one of the masters of framing. If you have the patience for a second viewing, notice how windows, plants, people, every detail changes the effective shape of the frame, often to superb psychological purpose.

To sum up, this movie as a whole does not work -- normally I would rate it a five out of ten, as another mediocre, derivative work. But the talent on display makes it substantially better than average.

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